Monday, February 22, 2016
August 26 (part 1)
Morning brought business as usual with it, plus a little more. I rose with Oses and Betra, who got up early so they could get to their respective quarters to clean up and dress for a typical workday. I had showered the night before, knowing I had an early day. I was on tap to help Katrina pack up her things to be moved to her clan’s quarters.
I fed Anrel, who woke up with a happy expression on her face. She’s much more a morning person than her mother. That’s a good thing, because seeing her smile makes me smile ... even before coffee.
I got us both dressed and secured her in the wrap carrier that allows her to snuggle against my chest and leave my hands free. I wore my workout clothes because Katrina, Candy, and I were scheduled for blade and then physical training this morning. We’d do that after a couple of hours of packing.
First came breakfast and those all-important cups of coffee. I met the gals in the hall, heading for the dining room. The three of us came in as the first diners of the day. We were greeted with smiles from the staff. Some of the guys, mostly Imdikos, gave Katrina wistful looks. I think they miss the wild ‘salons’ she used to hold before her heart was stolen away by Clan Wotref. Poor cuties.
There were a few other women moving at this hour. We got the usual bemused looks we’ve gotten used to since we started training. The three of us eat like hogs now. I especially like piling on the protein these days.
Anrel diverted many of the wide-eyed looks quick enough. She’s so cute. Sadly I had to cut the admiration fest short since we were on a time crunch this morning. I disengaged from Anrel’s fan club and sat with my friends.
“Did you set a ceremony date yet?” Candy asked between mouthfuls of eggs. Swala eggs, not chicken. They have five more grams of protein, and they have a creamier texture when scrambled. Yum.
Katrina waved her hand back and forth, signaling ‘sort of’. “Probably a couple of days after we cross into Kalquorian space. That will give things a chance to settle down. Wotref and Siko might even relax enough to enjoy it.”
Candy and I grunted, nodding our heads in agreement as we plowed through our breakfasts. My coffee cup was refilled, earning the helpful Imdiko attendant a smile of thanks from me. The staff knows me well.
When I’d swallowed I said, “It’s hard to carve out any time with the guys lately. So much for your honeymoon time.”
Katrina shrugged. “We make sure we work on the quality of our relationship since quantity is currently out the window. Just a few more days and we’re in Empire space and in the clear.”
We had more time (along with emptier mouths) to talk when we got to Katrina’s quarters and began sorting her belongings. She shook her head in disbelief.
“I got on this ship with almost nothing. Now look at this stuff. Make a big box marked ‘acquisitions’. If I don’t want it and neither of you wants it, I’m selling it to the ship for their next trip.”
It started to look like she would do that with half the things she’d collected. Many were gifts from admirers. Katrina thought it would be bad form to keep a lot of baubles received from the men she’d slept with before she settled with the captain’s clan.
“How is it, sharing space with three men?” I asked. “I mean, I spend most nights with Betra and Oses, but we all still have our own places.”
“It can be a little claustrophobic,” Katrina said as she debated over a bottle of perfume. The decanter had been inscribed with her name, a present from one of her past admirers. It was pretty.
“Keep it,” was my advice. It was obvious she liked it.
“You’re right. How many Katrinas are likely to show up on the next shipment of pussy?” She yelped and slapped her hands over her mouth. “Sorry Shalia. I’m going to end up being banned from Anrel’s presence if I don’t learn to keep my filthy mouth shut.”
I laughed. “No you won’t, but I might start washing that filthy mouth out with soap!”
We got back to work, snickering over the latest instance of potty mouth. After a few moments, Katrina went back to my earlier question.
“When you live with someone – or three someones in this case – you want to strangle them. Not because of anything they’ve done or said, but just to get a little time alone. Whether you clan sooner or later, you’ll learn that with Anrel.” She gave me a wink. “Kids and men are the biggest time stealers you can imagine. Sometimes it feels like they follow you around just to drive you nuts.”
“Romance,” Candy sighed with her drippiest expression. “It lives on.”
Katrina laughed. “I tell you this because I can also confirm that it’s worth the aggravation to have someone hold you at the end of the day. You might want to strangle them with the towels they leave all over the floor, but knowing someone is there when you’re sad or ready to share in victories or ready to hear you out when you’re ranting over the latest bit of stupidity somebody else made you endure ... it’s priceless.”
“So it adds more than it takes away?” I pressed.
“When you find your missing piece, the man or men who make you whole, you deal with the irritations,” Candy opined.
“Candy, don’t ever think of yourself as not whole without a man,” Katrina insisted. “No man or clan is ever going to make up for anything lacking in your life. That’s on your shoulders to fix. You look for love because you want to add to what is already right.”
Candy saluted her. “Got it, fearless leader.”
Katrina shook her head. “Back to the original subject before my soapbox appeared. When you find someone who adds to your life, you’ll go out of your way to forgive anything. Including them breathing your air and taking up too much of your space.” She grinned at me. “Just make sure they are worth that kind of investment. This is coming from the woman who married three times.”
“And is now clanned for life,” I reminded her.
She seemed at peace with that. “I’m older now. My last marriage ended eight years ago, and I did a lot of soul searching after that. I like to think I grew up finally. I’m pretty sure I found the right guys this time.”
“I’m sure you did,” Candy insisted. “Wotref, Ret, and Siko are terrific.”
“Yes they are.”
The rest of the time passed quickly. We’d made good progress, and Katrina felt sure she’d be moved out by the next evening. She was still pretty sure she wouldn’t unpack the majority of her belongings, not with having to do it all over again when we got to Kalquor. “For once, I’ll make life easy on myself,” she said as we headed to Betra’s office to drop off Anrel. It was time for blade training with Nobek Idow.
“You should give me lessons on that,” I said in a plaintive voice. “I’d give up a lot for an easy life.”
Blade training went well for me, as it usually does. I like it best of all, and Larten’s recommendations on how to go on the offensive against a much bigger opponent were helpful. Idow built on his ideas, customizing the moves to suit my strengths, as well as Katrina and Candy’s. We were all delighted with the results.
I sighed as we left Idow and trooped towards the physical training room. “And now all the happy stuff of the day gets ripped to shreds by Dramok Resan.”
“Just a little longer, Shalia,” Candy encouraged me. “A little bit of hell before we never hear his ugly mouth again.”
It never felt like a ‘little bit’ of hell. The hour spent with Resan always felt like an eternity.
I was stunned to find our verbally abusive trainer eerily quiet during our session. He barked orders and insulted us for being sloppy or lazy when the notion took him, but Resan didn’t harangue us like usual. After ten minutes of not being called something foul like a Bi’is codpiece (Resan-speak for small and pointless), I exchanged questioning looks with Candy and Katrina. Something was definitely off.
It was obvious Resan wasn’t being nice because he was in a good mood. If anything, his expression was colder, his demeanor more threatening than usual. He looked like a thundercloud does just before sending in a rainstorm. Black as night and ready to do damage.
It made me more nervous than when he got in my face, spewing vulgarity. Whatever Resan’s problem was, I didn’t want to be around when he let loose. I was beyond relieved when the session ended.
When he said, “Matara Shalia, you will remain so we can speak,” my heart dropped to my feet. I did not want to talk to Resan when he looked the way he did. Especially not alone.
What could I do though? Under the provisions of my physical training, Resan was in charge of me like he would be any trainee. I’d given my word to him on that count as I had to Idow when it came to blade training. Not that I truly gave a flying crap about any promises to Resan. The thing was, I’d also agreed to this with Oses. That carried true weight.
With a sick feeling in my gut I told Candy and Katrina, “Let Betra know I’ll be there for Anrel soon.” They nodded, giving me sympathetic looks before hurrying out.
I turned to Resan. Now that it was just him and me, he let me see how mad he really was. He was boiling. His sharp face was red heading into purple to match his eyes. Speaking of which, his eyes were showing a lot of white around the purple irises. His fists were clenched at his sides. Oh fuck.
I took a step back towards the door. His lip curled up. “Don’t you even think about leaving, not before you explain why you would spread lies about me to Weapons Commander Oses. How dare you accuse me of accosting you in a sexual manner!”
His accusation was so out of left field that all I could do was stare at him in confusion. What the fuck was he talking about? Being frightened and then mystified all at once screwed with my ability to think.
I finally stuttered, “Huh? What?” And made a few other unintelligent noises since my brain had gone on vacation.
“Did you not tell him I made sexual advances toward you?”
Great, his biceps were starting to bulge, the veins popping out. I like Kalquorian men in their sleeveless formsuits as a rule, but I so didn’t want to see Resan looking violent the way he did.
Then the bad thing happened. I started to laugh. Well, I giggled hysterically. Not that I found anything particularly funny. It just bubbled up that way. The worst thing was I couldn’t stop. The more I laughed, the harder I tried to make it quit. The harder I tried to make it quit, the worse it got.
Resan was not amused. I thought his eyes would pop right the hell out of his skull. He looked like he was about to explode out of sheer rage.
Saliva shot in streams from his mouth as he screamed at me. “What the fuck are you laughing at? Shut up, you stupid little Earther! Shut up!”
Prophets, what was wrong with me? The idea that I would think Resan wanted to have sex with me ... for him to think I’d tell anyone I thought he was attracted to me when everyone with half a brain knew for a fact he was not ... now that struck me as funny. I hee-hawed like a braying jackass as crazed laughter overcame me.
Resan might have finally decked me the way we both knew he’d been itching to from Day One, but he was too shocked at my reaction. I can’t blame him. Who the hell laughs like a lunatic when a muscled behemoth is looming over her, looking ready to kill? Besides an actual lunatic?
Then all at once it hit me. I realized what he was ranting about. The time he’d touched himself as he talked about how much he liked humiliating me in front of others. What he said he’d do as he fantasized about it. Oses had said he’d make sure Resan didn’t harass me like that again.
How the hell had he got it so wrong? I didn’t know, but I tried to gasp an explanation between guffaws.
“No ... no ... it was when ... when you said ... oh hell...”
It was too much. I couldn’t explain when all I could do was laugh.
I might still be there laughing like an idiot except the ship’s alarms went off. The order rang out for all women to go to the shuttles. Finally the hysterics scampered away, leaving me gasping and scrabbling for my com.
“Now what are you doing, you worthless egg factory? Get your ass to your shuttle,” Resan yelled. He turned his back on me, apparently having some duties to attend to in an emergency.
“Got to – check on – Anrel’s whereabouts,” I gasped, wheezing for breath after my laugh attack. I clicked for Betra’s frequency. “Check in – with Betra.”
Resan was opening a closet. He pulled a case out. “Make it quick and get the fuck out. I’ve seen more than enough of you today.”
Yeah, the feeling was mutual. I held the com to my mouth, ready to talk the moment my liaison answered.
He never did. The room suddenly plunged into darkness. A moment later, the floor heaved beneath me. Booms sounded, seeming to come from distances both great and alarmingly near.
The floor bucked again, and I fell forward in the blackness. I hit the floor, banging my forehead hard. I yelled in pain, but my cry was lost in the chaos. Alarms split the air in continuous blaring. The floor kept rocking, as if to throw me off. I tried to crawl to the door, to escape the madhouse I’d been pitched into, but I wasn’t even sure where the door was.
The last thing I knew was the loudest boom of all and a thunderclap of agony as something hit the back of my head.